A Diagnosis for My Disease

This morning, I had a doctor’s appointment. We talked about a lot of things: my thyroid, my workout plan, the stuff you would expect to talk about at the doctor’s office.

Then, as always, it spilled out of me.”I’m bored. I know I’ve committed to my job and I’ll give it another year, but I’m so, so bored.”

Without missing a beat, she asked, “Do you know what a multipotentialite is?” I shook my head. “Since you started coming to me, you’ve spent a lot of time talking about what you don’t want in life, but have trouble pinning down what you do want. You sound like a classic case of multipotentialite.” 

I immediately went home, and down the interweb rabbit hole. Don’t worry, I’m not dying (at least physically). Here’s the definition I found:

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But what does that mean exactly? Normally, I would never ask you to watch a 12-minute TED Talk (it’s so loooooooooong when all you want to do is skim this post for something relevant to you, right?), but nothing else has ever hit home for me. EVER.

So there you have it, I’ve been diagnosed. Multipotentialite. Finally, I have a name for the reason I feel forever unfulfilled, always chasing the next thing, frequently bored with the status quo.

If one more person asks me if I want to be a principal, or a full time consultant, or an FBI agent, I’m gonna explode. I don’t want any of these things, and I want all of these things. Even my husband, who is constantly mastering new hobbies, is sick of my daily existential crisis. Some days I want to quit and become a camp cook; other days I want to start up my own charter school. Why don’t I take the plunge? Because then I know inevitably boredom will set in and I’ll be stuck.

I’ve been romanticizing the idea of going back to teaching for the last six months, but when I was there, I was also bored, restless. It will be different this time, I tell myself.

The biggest reasons I love coaching is that I get to help people be better at the thing that they do (whether it’s classroom instruction or playing soccer) and then walk away. It’s their commitment, not mine. The freedom to dabble in others’ specialization is interesting and challenging. At the same time, I’m not creating anything that’s mine.

Let’s be clear, my life outside work is fulfilling. Clearly my multipotentialite personality had me create a bucket list to explore the vast interests of my life. Who else can say that they’ve submitted a gingerbread house to the state fair, joined an FBI Citizen Academy, ran to the top of Diamond Head, and had holiday tea with their friends?

OMG – do I need a work bucket list? I might have just stumbled onto something there…

One other thing my doctor said, “I feel like you’re on the edge of something really big in your life,” and since she’s pretty much the smartest and most intuitive person I’ve ever known, I’m going to hang on to this.

 

Top 5 Cubicle Rules That I’ve Been Breaking

It’s been twelve years since I’ve worked in a cubicle, and I’m having a terrible time readjusting. Back in college, I worked for General Motors Acceptance Corporation (otherwise known as The Devil) where I’ve never been so micromanaged in my entire life. Every minute of the day was catalogued by buttons on our phone. Spent a little too much time in the bathroom? You’d get a note about it. Too many personal items in your cubicle? You’d get a note about it. Some sad little person actually went around counting those on a periodic basis.

Now that I’m back and #allaboutthatcubiclelife, those GMAC memories are resurfacing. Like the guy next to me who took down a family-sized bag of Lay’s potato chips and a Big Gulp every Saturday afternoon; the lady who loved Barry Manilow so much that she erected a Manilow shrine (hence the personal items rule); that time that my friend and I were asked to clean the breakroom fridge and we shared an entire box of someone else’s Whitman Sampler. Good times.

Of course now, most of my job is actually spent out in schools and on the road. It’s a new, not-so-glamorous lifestyle (last week I ate a container of greek yogurt in the car without a spoon). But when I’m out and about, I’m in control. No one cares if I eat in the car or listen to Drake super loud. When I’m back in my cubicle, all bets are off. Every conversation, every rustle of a paper or typing of the keyboard is echoed across the room.

I’ve spent some time on the internet and asking friends, “What’s appropriate cubicle etiquette?” Apparently I’ve been way off.

Top Five Cubicle Rules That I’ve Been Breaking

  1. Even though cubicles don’t have doors, you’re supposed to knock. You’re not supposed to enter unless the person makes EYE CONTACT. (Whoops).
  2. When you hear someone else having a conversation, you’re not supposed to “prairie dog” and pop your head up out of nowhere. (Whoops).
  3. Your cellphone should be on vibrate or silent, so that people next to you don’t hear your text alert constantly. (Whoops).
  4. Keep your shoes on. (Whoops).
  5. Resist answering a question you hear someone ask in the cube next to you. (Whoops).
  6. Use “library voice.” (Whoops).

I guess after teaching middle school for ten years, I’ve become a sloppy, inconsiderate animal. I need a cage, not a cubicle.

But seriously – if I can answer someone’s question, why WOULDN’T they want an immediate answer?! How was I supposed to know that non-verbal eye contact was permission to enter an open space?! When I wear heels all day, I deserve to kick them off for a few minutes!

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About those teacher anxiety dreams…

Every teacher has new school year anxiety dreams. Even when I’ve taught in a happy place and I was consciously worried about anything, they still cropped up at this time of year. Mine usually centered around finding out that my classroom was suddenly outdoors, usually on a sea cliff, and kids’ papers were flying away in the wind and I would like, “I don’t even have a phone – this isn’t going to work!” Or there’s the one where my class was suddenly 78 kids, ranging in ages of five to 17, and every time I would try to give directions, no one was listening. Ok, and sometimes I had one where I would hurl a string of profanities against my principal (each one, my dreams didn’t discriminate).

Last year was the worst because these dreams did not taper off by mid-September, but got progressively worse into October. I was waking in the middle of the night, stressed and helpless. I even went to the doctor (hence the “learning to mediate” goal) – school anxiety dreams are normal, to a point, and I had far crossed normal.

Tomorrow is my first “real” day back (even though I’ve been working my new job here and there), and I haven’t had one anxiety dream all summer. NOT ONE. I’m starting a new job; I’m still full of unknowns; I feel a lot of pressure to perform – but not one bad dream.

HOWEVER, I have been plagued with a recurring dream all summer long. Essentially every night since summer started, my dreams have been vividly recurring around the same thing: wandering around a European city. Sometimes it’s Barcelona, sometimes it’s Greece, sometimes it’s a city I’ve never been to (like Berlin or Rome). Mostly, I’m exploring at my own pace and having a good time – sometimes the sun goes down and I start to get lost (but not scary lost). Sure, you could say that it’s just residual dreaming from actually going to Greece in June – but I looked it up:

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Hey! that seems pretty on point! Here I am about to start a new job that is totally different from what I’ve done before, and it’s a positive sign. I told my new boss about this, and he loved it.

Yesterday I was was talking with a friend about going back for the new year, and she said, “I’m actually excited to go back – is that bad?” and I replied, “No, that means you’re in the right place. Everyone will grumble a little bit about summer ending, but if you’re dreading going back, that’s a really bad sign.” I’ve felt that dread, and it cannot be ignored.

Maybe in a month I will come back and write a miserable post about my miserable new life, but at this point I’m ready to get rolling. Sadly, summer is over and way too fast but based on the empirical evidence of Google dream searching, it’s time for a new start.

A moment to brag about myself

When I look back on what I was doing a year ago, it’s a little crazy to think how many things have happened. I had just accepted an adjunct teaching position at Concordia while simultaneously moving into my new office at a new school. There were a lot of unknowns; a lot of new stressors; a lot of new expectations.

By December, I was officially hating life at my full-time job, but teaching at Concordia was seriously amazing. At one point, I left our night class, ravenous and exhausted, but still thinking, “This is the best three hours of every week.” Sure, it was hard to get up the next morning and go back to my “real” job, but Concordia gave me real autonomy and the opportunity to stay fresh in my field. I felt respected and valued by not only my students, but the institution itself.

In the spring, I took a break and returned for the summer term, where I taught two classes back-to-back. Again, I was starving. Again, I was exhausted. I complained to my friends that that I wasn’t lying on the beach getting my summer tan, and was instead grading papers. Bleh! But every time I left class, I thought, Today was actually fun, or Today I really learned something. 

When the term ended last week, I was honestly sad to see them go, but was ready for the break. After grading a bazillion portfolios and submitting grades, I allowed my brain to move into vacation mode. Puzzles, beach, gym. DONE! Tonight my course assessments popped up in my email, and they were beyond flattering. I’m always expecting criticism and negative feedback which then helps me refine what I will do the next time around – but this time there was none. NONE!

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Dude! Someone had a legit life-changing experience! I facilitated that! Holy shit!

Why am I bragging right now? Number one: because I worked my ass off, and I can be proud of my accomplishments. But more importantly, number two: if I had such a good experience teaching this class over the last year (and clearly others agree it went well), then maybe I need to look at the SIGNS. Perhaps this is really what I should be doing full time? Or is it only fun and rewarding because it’s polarized against working full-time for a totally dysfunctional organization? What does it all meeeeeannnnn????

I’m not sure, but it’s got me thinking.

Next week, I start my next new job, and I’m going to take a reluctant break from Concordia for the semester. Again, I have a lot of new unknowns and expectations. Here we go again. But what I do know is that one of those days (you know, those days), I’m going to pull up my Concordia assessments and remember that there are greener pastures.

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And if all this self-important bragging is rubbing you the wrong way, I’ll share with you that this morning I was so mesmerized by the boot camp class working out in the beach volleyball sand pit, that I tripped over their giant hose and went face first right into that sand. There was a lot of gasping and people shouting, “Are you ok?!” as I failed to be able to shake the sand off my sweaty, post-workout chest. Nobody’s perfect.

#8 – Find a new job. Check. (Ahhhh!!!)

That’s right. Today I accepted a new job. I’m just as surprised as you are.

Back in December, I had resolutely (and somewhat publicly) decided that my current position wasn’t what I had hoped for, and as Martha Stewart says, “Never accept an offer if you think it can be improved.” At the beginning of the year, I pulled out my brand new Passion Planner and set to work. Despite my complete and total misery, I mapped out a plan to find a new job, with a deadline of May 1st.

I really spent a lot of time working on this plan, which included a lot of networking with colleagues that I respect in and out of my school district. I also sat down and started collecting a mass amount of evidence of my impact in my current job, as well as ramped up my professional reading. Then I just put my head down and started plowing through, eyes on the prize, playing the long game.

At the beginning of April, I started to realize I wasn’t miserable anymore. In fact, I had some pretty fun days at work, and had made some awesome new friends and coaching soccer after school was super fun. My boss also got off my case, and in fact sometimes he even agreed with me (gasp!). I think I can do this again next year, I thought. As things go in the spring, people start asking each other, “Are you staying next year?” and I had this whole story of how YES, I WAS COMMITTED. I was even going to tell this story at a staff meeting to instill confidence for next year.

Suddenly I was approached about another position. A position I was somewhat dying to have in November, but now? How could I abandon ship? What about my commitment story? What about my soccer team?

In these times, I refer back to a book I read years ago called Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, And Why by Donald Ascher. It said that a job never comes at a perfect time, and you have to be ready to just take it. People who are always waiting for the right time and place end up staying in the same role forever.

So what is the job???? It’s got a fancy name, but basically it’s coaching the other instructional coaches in my district. I’ve been working towards this for awhile now – why wouldn’t I take it?

Technically it’s May 3rd, meaning I’m three days past my deadline, but the point is that it didn’t just fall in my lap. This is five months of strategic work that culminated into this opportunity, so yeah, I’m taking it.

I will miss my current coworkers, and my kickass office (today a student said, “I want my dorm room to look like your office,”), but they can’t get rid of me that easily. I’m pretty sure that I can still fit a cookoff and coaching a soccer team into my new schedule.

PS: Get yourself a Passion Planner – it works!

 

Moving Sideways to Get Forward

In 2014, I initially made one of my “bonus” goals to get hired as an Assistant Principal. I hemmed and hawed, and asked everyone I knew whether I should do it or not. Finally, I said, “What’s my problem already?!” and applied for our district’s AP pool. Then everyday I dreaded the phone ringing, saying I had an interview. While I have no doubts that I could do the job (and learn to do it well), the question really has always been do I want the job.

The phone didn’t ring, and when they finally sent me a “thanks but no thanks” email – I felt completely relieved, not rejected. This year, I was back in the classroom (although I always have my little things on the side) and in February I began to feel the proverbial claustrophobic panic of doing the same old thing for the next school year. Don’t get me wrong – teaching can be super fun, but it’s not enough for me. I want to get out and see other teachers do their thing, and help them get better at doing their thing. I want to advocate for them when the principal can’t remember what it’s like to be a teacher, and temper them when they can’t understand why the principal is so overwhelmed.

This year, I didn’t even think of applying for an assistant principal position, but last week when I saw an instructional coaching position open under a principal I totally respect, I thought, “Ok – I’m going to give it a go.” A few days later, I had accepted the job just a couple hours after interviewing.

So there it is: I have a new job. The IRONY of it all. Why didn’t I make it a 2015 goal so I could cross it off my list??

Just a couple weeks ago I read a quote that said something like, “Sometimes a step forward requires a couple side steps first,” but I can’t seem to find the exact quote, or who said it. But I reflected that I’ve been impatient, and trying to force applying for a different job just because I should. Working at my current school for the last two years has been the biggest “bucket filling” experience I ever could have had. The parents and kids and staff and leadership are pretty much out of a magazine, and everyone has treated me so well. Yeah, professionally it’s a sidestep, but personally it’s been a big step forward. (BTW, Amanda, you’re the one who made all this happen).

Who knows what next year will look like, but I keep reminding myself that I need to do things my own way.

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